In literature, two crucial factors for success are universal validity and a message that is close to many people’s thoughts about a certain subject. Probably being the most famous monologue of all time, Hamlet’s soliloquy has a universal message to which many people can relate. The main themes in Hamlet’s soliloquy are dominated by dualities – amongst others life vs. death, strong vs. weak, sane vs. insane.
Throughout the soliloquy, Hamlet treats life as a subject. As mentioned above, duality is a general theme that applies to every aspect of Hamlet’s discussion with himself. Already from the first line, the duality is present – “To be, or not to be, that is the question” (page 158, line 56). Not only is the duality mentioned in this opening line, but also the reader is introduced to the verb “be” as a symbol of life itself. This being said, the soliloquy can be interpreted as a discussion on whether to commit suicide or not. Hamlet considers the different advantages and disadvantages of each choice. Most readers would have the opinion that suicide is a display of weakness and even a way to “chicken out” on life, but Hamlet’s opinion is the opposite. The rhetorical question “Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer / […] / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles / And by opposing end them.” (page 158, lines 57, 59-60) is a central point in the soliloquy. Hamlet talks about life as a very bad thing. Life is a long struggle that one can choose to endure, but that would be weak in Hamlet’s opinion. The opposite of this would be to be strong and end the life that one would have to endure.
The answer to “to be or not to be” is not that clear though. The quotation “To die, to sleep – / No more; and by a sleep to say we end / The heart-ache / […] / To die, to sleep – / To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub, / For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.” (page 158, lines 60-62, 64-66) Hamlet’s fear of committing suicide is clearly depicted. Although it is explained somewhat clearly, that death would be a rational way of ending the evil life, Hamlet is now in doubt. As he compares death to sleep, he involves the mystics of what happens when the mind is not Deathconscious. He seems fearful of what happens when he will possibly be death, and that leads him to conclude that after all, he would rather deal with known problems than unknown. “But that the dread of something after death, / The underdiscovered country from whose bourn / No traveler returns, puzzles the will, / And makes us rather bear those ills we have / Than fly to others that we know not of?” (page 159 lines 78-82) supports, that mystic of afterlife is too much for him. He has made his mind up about suicide, and it is clear for all readers, that he will stay alive and deal with those problems that he know, rather than be surprised by problems that are possibly worse than the current ones.
If one has suicidal thoughts, one will most often have a tendency to have a distorted view on human emotions and how to express these, and this happens for Hamlet as well. It is depicted, that a strong person is in fact one who commits suicide and the opposite for a weak one. The fact that Hamlet concludes that he should not commit suicide and thus be strong is also the message in the soliloquy: No matter how distorted your emotions are, life is still life and a strong person would always choose life.